“The perfect combination of a somewhat aged exotic character, a wonderful view over the town, and a very high standard of service”, is how one Trip Advisor reviewer succinctly describes the historic Hotel El Minzah in Tangier.
“A grand old lady”, “iconic, 1940s atmosphere”, “an oasis of calm in a bustling city”, “bags of character!”, enthuse others.
Of all the hotels in the magical port of Tangier, I found El Minzah without doubt the most sumptuous and the most elegant. This historic property, full of charm and wonderfully located near the Kasbah and the centre of the old town, first opened its doors in 1930 at the command of John Crichton-Stuart, the 4th Marquis of Bute – a Scottish aristocrat and businessman with extensive interests in what was then dubbed the “International Zone”. It is one of the very few five-star establishments in the city and has long been a favourite with dignitaries, politicians and Hollywood stars: Winston Churchill, the Comte de Paris, Rex Harrison, Rita Hayworth and Yves Saint Laurent all enjoyed its splendours, and it is still considered one of the most distinguished hotels in North Africa. Along with the nearby smaller but no less beautiful Grand Hotel Villa de France, El Minzah is part of the prestigious Le Royal Hotels and Resorts division of the multinational General Mediterranean Holding group, owned by Iraqi-born British businessman and philanthropist Sir Nadhmi Auchi. GMH also has a number of five-star properties in Luxembourg, Spain, France, Hammamet, Sharm el-Sheikh, Amman and Beirut.
El Minzah is set on a hill in what was once the prominent diplomatic quarter of Tangier. It is close to the beach, the port, the shops and the main train station, but being elevated it enjoys magnificent views of the Bay of Tangiers, the Straits of Gibraltar and the Rif Mountains, against which backdrop is set the old medina and Cap Malabata. Of the 140 tastefully furnished, air-conditioned, en-suite bedrooms (including 15 suites) most have a south-easterly aspect, affording plenty of sunlight and uninterrupted views of the hotel’s gardens and the Bay. The gardens themselves are stunning: nestled among the luxuriant lawns are beds of sweet roses and giant geraniums, lilies, hibiscus and other exotic plants, all shaded by palm, orange and eucalyptus trees.
El Minzah’s architecture and fountains will transport you instantly into the mysterious delights of old Tangier – in fact Humphrey Bogart’s Rick’s Café in the iconic film Casablanca was modelled on the hotel. Original Arabesque woodwork, oriental carpets and arched doorways greet you around the lobby area, where you can enjoy traditional Moroccan tea and almond sweets. A large Andalusian courtyard forms the heart of the hotel, with a magnificently carved sandstone portal, iron studded wooden doors and plenty of old world-charm. This paved enclosure is exceptionally beautiful and offers alfresco dining options in the morning as well as in the evening.
There are several restaurants and bars in the hotel, offering international cuisine that will appeal to all palates as well as Moroccan specialties such as Couscous and Tagine. Caid’s piano bar is a lovely evening option for cocktails on the terrace, but there is also The Wine Bar with its chic-bistro atmosphere and excellent selection of fine wines. With a lovely view of the pool and gardens, the Misbah serves lunch on a daily basis for a true North African experience and is ideal for galas or events too.
El Minzah Wellness*, a sophisticated health club offering fitness activities and spa treatments, will transport you to another world of well-being and relaxation. Guests can unwind at the sauna, steam room or Turkish bath after a dip in the pool, or pamper themselves in the beauty shop and Venus bar. For the more adventurous, the hotel is also close to the Royal Golf Country Club, as well as stables for horseback riding and tennis courts.
* Recommended by Lonely Planet